Last night marked a historic moment for space travel, as SpaceX's Falcon 9 first stage succeeded at a powered landing at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
To put the significance of this achievement into perspective, consider that over 75% of the cost of space travel is the launch vehicle, which is discarded after use. Being able to recover and cheaply recondition the first stage (unfortunately not possible with splashdowns) means a significant cost decrease for space travel. On top of that, the same landing technology can be adapted for Mars landings in the future.
This is an amazing breakthrough, which (once SpaceX have completed their tests on the returned first stage) could herald the beginning of a new era of space flight.
(Note: linked video starts at ~32:20, just before the landing)
With this mission, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will deliver 11 satellites to low-Earth orbit for ORBCOMM, a leading global provider of Machine-to-Machine communication and Internet of Things solutions. The ORBCOMM launch is targeted for an evening launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. If all goes as planned, the 11 satellites will be deployed approximately 20 minutes after liftoff, completing a 17-satellite, low Earth orbit constellation for ORBCOMM. This mission also marks SpaceX’s return-to-flight as well as its first attempt to land a first stage on land. The landing of the first stage is a secondary test objective.